Once upon a time, children would run out to play, climb trees and use their imagination to take them on worldly adventures. Today, Generation Z (those between 4 and 25 years old today) have technology swamping their lives and ready to transport them to another world with the switch of a games console button.
Young children all the way up to millennials have become increasingly dependent on technology to access services and harbour their social life. It has resulted in many causes for concern, and even the NHS is opening a specialist clinic to help young people deal with computer game addiction.
Such actions by the NHS suggest that our children are either addicted to technology or at risk of it. Here is what recent research suggests about young people and technology usage - and what parents need to know.
An Overview of Generation Z and Technology Use
Generation Z may be lumped into the same category as millennials when it comes to using technology, but the reality is that they use it slightly differently to the generations before:
- Generation Z watches less TV than millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers - at just over 13 hours per week.
- However, Generation Z spends more time watching TV than they spend on their laptops.
- This is because Generation Z prioritises using their smartphone and spend an average of 15.4 hours on their mobiles. This is around the same amount of time as a part-time job in the UK.
The amount of time spent using technology in their early years may be shocking to some people, but part of the reason is due to its accessibility. A study conducted in Australia found that more than 70% of children aged between 11-17 years old had two or more devices in their bedroom on an evening.
Generation Z-ers have easy access to technology and are using it excessively. So, what does the research state about this use of technology and the internet?
Research into Young People’s Use of Technology
The research in this area is extensive but also complex. Many different avenues can be explored form mental health, family dynamics, physical health and the list continues. Here are some of the most recent findings from interesting studies looking at technology use in Generation Z age groups:
- A study published in 2018 investigated the health implications of young people using wireless technologies and being exposed to radiofrequency radiation. The results pointed to a possible connection between continual exposure to these devices and human carcinogen (a substance that leads to cancer).
- Another study analysed video game addiction in 10-17 year olds and found that it has significant knock-on health consequences. Those with gaming addictions also experienced poor sleep cycles and obesity, which then resulted in further health complications such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
- Researchers in Japan conducted a study found that more than an hour of smartphone usage resulted in behavioural and emotional problems in pre-school children aged just six years old, including a significant chance of hyperactivity and reduced concentration.
- Earlier research has also pointed out a positive relationship between some technologies and the education of young people, especially those with visual impairment and other disabilities. Swapping the mouse for a touchscreen has been reported to help these children to access education through technology.
- The Independent newspaper has reported findings from researchers at University College London who suggest Generation Z are specifically more likely to experience mental health problems due to social media and technology. The study claimed that depression had risen in 14-year olds by almost 6%.
What Can Worried Parents Do to Help?
If you are the parent of a Generation Z child, you may be thinking what you should be doing to mitigate any risk of your child experiencing the negative effects of technology usage. Four of the UK’s head medical experts have put together guidance for parents. Here is what they have to say:
- Ban electronic devices from the dinner table because talking as a family can have a significant positive effect on a child’s development.
- Remove all devices from the bedroom in an evening to prevent disturbed sleeping patterns and midnight internet surfing.
- Be open with children about cyberbullying and anything they want to discuss about online activity.
- Teaching children to put a device away when interacting with another person. This includes crossing roads to keep them safe.
- Enforce breaks every two hours to keep children active.
- Parents must practise what they preach and also to not overuse technology to set a good example. You can learn the importance of this by hearing about the Still Face Experiment previously discussed on an 11 Plus Success article here.
Spotting a Technology Addiction or Related Problem
The World Health Organisation (WHO) does not currently specify what a technology addiction is classed as. Therefore, it is up to parents to spot an issue with little guidance. Look out for changes in behaviour during or just after using technology and the internet, as well as the number of hours they are using the technology.
If the child is using their smartphone to socialise with school friends, it is crucial that you also devote time to socialise with them. This is because the child may be replacing the usual interactions they have speaking with an adult and instead having them with another child. This is damaging because the other child cannot replace the information that a parent can offer.The 11 Plus Online Course on offer with us allows parents to track their child’s progress so they know their children are putting the time in to study and not gaming or chatting on social media. It gives you the peace of mind that they are using technology for good, rather than for potential harm.